August 26, 2010

ER Wait Times via Cellphone

A new trend is unfolding: ERs across the country are posting their wait times online, via text, and even on a flashing billboard. With ER usage at a record high, hospitals are struggling to keep the wait times down, and this is one effort to dissipate the patient load.

According to an article by the Associated Press, "There are no statistics on how many hospitals advertise wait times, although they tend to have multiple ERs in a region, usually the suburbs. The idea: People with less urgent conditions — maybe they need stitches for a cut — might drive a bit farther for a shorter wait, possibly helping a hospital chain spread the load without losing easier cases to competitors."

Hospitals are trying everything from "team triage" — where patients are met by a doctor, nurse and paramedics at the front door — to "hallway medicine," where patients on guerneys are divided by the severity of their condition and given nursing attention in hallways.

These measures all point to a shortage of hospital in-patient beds and a poor system for directing non-urgent cases to appropriate places for care. Perhaps it's time to redefine "ER" so we preserve this valuable resource for true emergencies.

August 13, 2010

New JAMA report highlights America's ER crisis

Los Angeles is definitely not the only city experiencing a crisis in emergency care. Our film Firestorm captures this national trend, but for those who remain skeptic about the severity of this issue then check out The Journal of the American Medical Association's recent report on national ER visits.

One of the report's findings: the number of patient visits in emergency rooms nationwide rose from 95 million to 117 million in 10 years. You may think "But ER visits will obviously increase with the growth of population, so what's the big deal?" The big deal is that while the number of patient visits grew 23%, only HALF of that increase can be attributed to the population growth. AND as the demand for ERs grew by this surge in visits, the number of ERs dropped by 5%.

So, still not convinced our nation
has an emergency medical care problem??

Learn more about the JAMA report in this LA Times' Health Care blog post: Emergency rooms are getting more crowded everywhere, study finds

August 4, 2010

Congress Passes Landmark Oil, Gas & Mining Transparency Law

Two weeks ago Congress took bold steps to increase transparency in the gas, oil and mining industries. In countries all of over the world, the people who live in areas that are rich in natural resources are often the least likely to benefit. The new regulations, which were included in the Dodd-Frank financial reform legislation passed by the House and Senate, will require companies to publicly disclose payments for the extraction of oil, gas, and minerals on a country-by-country and project basis as part of financial statements that are already required by the SEC.

We might not be able to control how foreign governments compensate local communities, but we can require our accounting system to make publicly available the value of oil, gas and mining contracts. It's a first step toward ensuring that the wealth generated by these industries is more equitably distributed, and that local communities are armed with information that will allow them to demand a fair share.

We've been working with Oxfam America to shed light on this issue and to support their campaign called "Right to Know, Right to Decide." Our short animation, Follow the Money, helped generate tens of thousands of signatures to support reform.

According to Oxfam's president, Raymond C. Offenheiser, "Congress has made an unprecedented commitment to financial transparency and good governance in a sector that not only affects American wallets, but also some of the most vulnerable communities around the world. Secrecy of oil, gas and mining company payments to governments fosters government corruption and violent conflict in resource-rich countries that are home to more than half of the world's poorest people. Instability in these regions poses a long-term threat to national security, foreign policy, and economic interests in the United States."

This is issue is close to our hearts, having witnessed the gross inequities in the Niger Delta, one of the world's leading oil suppliers where the majority of the population lives on just $1 per day.

To learn more, click here.